CNNSI.com Winter Olympics 2002 Winter Olympics 2002


 

Double the fun

Grimmette and Martin slide their way to silver

Posted: Friday February 15, 2002 7:55 PM

 
PARK CITY, Utah -- In a shadowy corner of the media room, where American lugers Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin were trying to put their silver-medal triumph into words, U.S. head coach Wolfgang Schädler stroked his stubble and spoke lovingly -- about his sleds. "We took risks in so many races to make sure that the parts of the sled work together perfectly for this day," said Schadler, who, as one of the sport's premier technicians, tinkers with the shape and arc of his team's sled runners. When pressed for details, however, Schädler turned tight-lipped: "Everyone has secrets; we have our own."

The coach will concede one thing: In Friday's luge doubles final, the most valuable parts of the second-place sled might have been the living, breathing dream-chasers sandwiched on top of it. Topping the twosome was the earnest, crew-cut Grimmette, whose nerve-induced stomach aches are often written all over his face. Pinned beneath Grimmette's tree-trunk frame was the squat, bleach-blond Martin, whose style seems better suited for the Banzai pipeline. Teammates for six years now, the duo have developed a chemistry that is indispensable in a sport which requires two people to spend several hours a day literally on top of each other. "They make a very good couple," says Schadler.

Together with U.S. teammate Chris Thorpe -- who added a bronze (with Clay Ives ) to the silver he won in Nagano with Gordy Sheer -- the twosome has boosted their sport's image in the eyes of an American public for whom luge doubles is still comically incomprehensible (for those still wondering: The combined weight makes for a faster and more dangerous run than singles luge).

Because some aggressive sled experimentation caused them to slip in last year's international rankings, the likable lugers -- bronze medalists in Nagano -- were little more than sentimental favorites heading into the Olympics. That was until last week when they, along with Thorpe and Ives, started to frighten the German favorites with some blistering training runs.

In third place heading into Friday's final attempt, Grimmette and Martin saved their best for last. With a 43.105-second run that would push them past their teammates but leave them .134 behind the German power couple of Patric-Fritz Leitner and Alexander Resch, the duo screeched to fist-pumping halt in front of some three dozen fans wildly waving Martin and Grimmette propaganda.

When the two started competing together in 1996, the only people lining up at the finish line were their European competitors, who got a kick out of seeing the unpracticed Americans crash. "We came up with something that works really well, and as you can see, it's paid off," said Martin.

Following their shining moment, should Grimmette and Martin consider, as they have before, retiring, one member of Team USA will be ready to re-tool their perspective. "They had their best race ever," says Schäadler, "but there is room for improvement."

Sports Illlustrated writer-reporter Kelley King is in Utah covering the Olympics for Sports Illustrated Olympic Daily and CNNSI.com. Check back regularly for more behind-the-scenes reports from Salt Lake City.

 
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Germans win doubles luge; U.S. takes silver, bronze
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